When a crisis like a fire, tornado, or active shooter occurs on a college campus, administrators suddenly become grateful for all those students glued to their smartphones.
Mass-notification technologies can instantly tell students, staff, and visitors how to respond in an emergency. That can streamline the work of emergency first responders and limit potential harm to specific areas of the campus.
Sending mass notifications has obvious health and safety benefits. The core challenge is deploying mass-notification tools across all the communication modes on a modern college campus. That requires a thorough understanding of the devices on a campus network and a careful strategy to ensure nothing gets overlooked when trouble strikes.
Mass-notification technologies can now deliver across in-building devices, desk phones, overhead paging systems, IP speakers, digital signage, and computer desktops. Colleges and universities need to send alerts via live audio, pre-recorded audio messaging, SMS text, email, phone calls, and push notifications.
Let’s look at how campuses are addressing these challenges.
College administrators adapt to threats in specific areas and across geographic regions:
Natural disasters. During a snow storm, mass notifications can tell students to stay in their dorms when a blizzard makes it unsafe for staff and faculty to reach campus. In hurricane country, notifications help students evacuate safely. From tornadoes to floods to earthquakes, mass-messaging can ensure everybody receives the same guidance.
Crime. Hacking attacks can shut down computing infrastructure. The mass shootings that capture the headlines are exceedingly rare, but if one happens on a college campus, mass notifications become mandatory. Many more kinds of crime from arson to sexual assault might require a mass-alert response. The technology gives campus leaders the freedom to tailor notifications to whatever need arises.
Accidents. A four-car crash ties up traffic or blocks access to campus parking. A noxious-gas release from the physical plant requires an evacuation. A fire in a high-rise dorm requires exit instructions. Sending instant alerts reduces the risks arising during these situations.
Mass notifications must be able to reach specific kinds of devices and deliver specialized content in an emergency. These are some of the challenges campuses face:
Multiple populations. Administrators cannot limit their view to students, faculty, and staff. Campuses also have vendors, visitors, media, and external emergency first responders to think about. Mass-alert technology can be customized to reach all of these people via text message, phone calls, and other delivery methods.
Delivery, response, and confirmation. A high-quality mass-notification system has a software console that provides real-time updates about who has received notifications. That gives administrators an idea of how many people know about the crisis. Messages can be configured to require a “please respond” message to find out who is safe and who needs help.
Escalation. If campus leaders need to expand their messaging or recraft it to reinforce the severity of a situation, escalation capability allows a standardized method of stepping up to a higher alert level.
Conference calls. Leaders from multiple schools or departments can be automatically summoned to a conference call to manage a crisis. Configuring this capability in advance ensures a much faster response to an emergency.
Geolocation. A well-designed mass-messaging system can send alerts to people already within a specific geographic area. Moreover, it can send an alert when people enter an area, creating an electronic perimeter that warns people to leave dangerous areas.
CBTS recently integrated InformaCast Fusion, a cloud-based mass-alert technology from Singlewire Software, into our Hosted Enterprise Unified Communications (UC) solution. CBTS Hosted Enterprise UC delivers advanced capabilities like VoIP, teleconferencing, and global collaboration via a cloud-based managed service. CBTS experts handle the complications of configuring phones, allocating bandwidth, and ensuring high-quality communications, all for a predictable monthly fee.
The addition of InformaCast Fusion ensures that our Hosted Enterprise UC clients have top-tier mass-messaging capabilities. For college campuses, that means administrators always have the tools they need to send specific messages to defined groups of people in precise geographic locations. That helps campus leadership manage crises, reduce hazards, and save lives—all in real time.
If your campus needs advanced mass-messaging capability, talk to the experts at CBTS. We can also help with a clear communication strategy during emergencies.
Check out our three-part series on creating a roadmap for Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS):